Māori arts space opens at Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre
Te Whare Tapere, a space run by Māori artists for Māori artists and beyond Māori artists at Te Matatiki Toi Ora The Arts Centre, opened this last weekend.
The dedicated space is supported by two part-time positions, filled by artists Juanita Hepi (Kāi Tahu, Waitaha, Kāti Māmoe, Ngāti Mutunga, Moriori, Ngāti Kahungunu, Ngāti Wai, Ngāpuhi) and Ngaio Cowell (Waikato Tainui, Ngaati Te Ata, Ngāti Porou, Tauiwi). The pair are overseeing the fitout, programming, and community development, in consultation with the Māori Advisory Committee of Te Matatiki Toi Ora.
Ms Hepi is clear that Te Whare Tapere is not a European-style gallery. “Te Whare Tapere is a multidisciplinary, indigenous house of storytelling. It should be a warm, safe space to practice kā toi Māori, facilitating the intergenerational transfer of mātauraka.”
To underline its difference from the traditional white room gallery, the once white walls of the space have been daubed with messages and drawings using natural pigment from whenua collected locally (supported by a partnership with Natural Paint Company). The names and aspirations of local artists, rangatahi and tamariki, have literally been written into the walls. Although this mark-making will eventually be covered over, it is a way to transfer mauri into the space. “We’re working out how the values of mana whenua, mana moana and mana tangata can be realised in this space. Our people have been here, having their say, before we officially open. At the heart of this whare is relationships, for sure,” says Ms Cowell.
Director of Te Matatiki Toi Ora, Philip Aldridge, says Te Whare Tapere is a testament to the vision of mana whenua artists, especially Paula Rigby who continues to encourage The Arts Centre to live its values by empowering Māori artists. “Te Whare Tapere is one step in a journey to see Māori creative practices thrive here again,” Mr Aldridge says.